The Meg (2018)

Another shark film, because they are always highlighted as one of the worst predators in the kingdom, so one after another more shark films come out expressing this danger they perceive. Well anyway, this one is bigger, much bigger than the shark films we’ve all seen in cinema before. A 65+ foot shark, one considerably bigger than any other, and this one has come up to surface for its first time.

The plot is pretty simple. A group of biologists and divers are determined in discovering more of the ocean. In a mission, they send down a submarine past known ocean trenches to determine whether it is deeper than anyone has ever believed. In a successful and life-changing realisation, they uncover a world beneath the once-believed ocean floor, but in doing so they uncover a life-threatening creature. A shark thought to be prehistoric and extinct, this submarine opens a gate for a megalodon to break to surface. This is where it begins exploring where it’s never been before. I’m making it sound so much more brilliant than the plot actually was: a huge shark is released from it’s temperature cage deep below. Then the people who released it, try to resolve their problem. In which just leads to a mass of “stop chasing the big angry shark with silly ideas”.

The Meg 1

‘The Meg’ is definitely built off jump scares. I wouldn’t say this was a thrilling horror, but there were parts that did make me tense, waiting for the jump scare because that’s all that could happen really, especially with the size of the shark. Most of the time, we could see the shark we knew where it was, we knew it was heading straight for the people. But some jump scares were effective. As odd as it sounds, a shark as big as that and threatened to be so much more dangerous, I thought it would have more catastrophic moments on screen. Regardless, things came a bit unbelievable with its abilities and strengths. To say the least, a giant squid was more able to break down a glider submarine than a shark was… Everything seemed a bit fortunate. Which isn’t always the best thing for a horror. Not saying, I wanted every character to die, no no not at all! Just a bit coincidental and created a slight uninterest to the threat. It wasn’t the most amazing shark film.

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As the characters go, we don’t actually know much about them. Jason Statham plays the main protagonist worried over events of unsuccessful dives. His character is quite serious, but that’s usually the characters he plays. Everything seems very natural with the characters, we know more about them as we watch. Some characters did come across stronger than others, for example it was great to have a character that also brought some comedy, aka DJ (Page Kennedy). However, I did feel like there was some moments of awkward acting, but that may have just been me.

Not unlike to ‘Jaws’, the spectacle of the huge, prehistoric shark was the centre of the film. Particularly the ending was a huge spectacle, slightly unrealistic, but a spectacle nonetheless. It wasn’t a terrible film, it built jump scares well. It didn’t have a complicated plot but that was because it was about a shark and nothing else. I wouldn’t watch it over and over again, but I definitely didn’t regret watching it. It’s another shark film, among the mass of all others.

47 Meters Down (2017)

A new shark horror film, because why not? There’s been loads, of course the classic ‘Jaws‘ is always one to spring to mind first. Then there’s the older (and definitely most fake) ‘Deep Blue Sea’, and you cannot forget the newer of them, ‘The Shallows‘. 2017 brings another, ’47 Meters Down’ or ‘In The Deep’ because I’m not entirely convinced I know which one is actually the real title. We all know sharks make a good villain in horror films, if done correctly and convincingly, and this film definitely did that! The predators of the sea are viscous and blood-thirsty, they linger in the darkness and a good director knows how to get the audience’s hearts racing to the unknown position of the shark.

We’ve learnt the effective way of using a camera underwater and using it from the position of a shark, or maybe not from a shark at all, creates a tension and thrill in audiences so brilliantly – this of course dominant in Stephen Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’. This is also seen in this film, although with the plot it’s obvious that this would happen, but still the camera positioning is extremely effective in creating that horror feeling. Additionally, music is key. There’s no classic du un duuuu nuu in this film, but the music definitely builds more tension and horror to the film. Now we just need some convincing and realistic actors/actresses, and this is something we definitely have in this film too. The two main protagonists, sisters but polar opposite in personalities, stand out amazingly in this film. They are recognisable (of course) as Mandy Moore and Claire Holt. Mandy Moore recognisable in films such as the voice of Rapunzel in ‘Tangled’, or the main protagonist in the beautiful drama ‘A Walk To Remember’, or even the bitch in ‘The Princess Diaries’. Then there’s Claire Holt, probably more recognisable in TV programmes (well she is to me anyway), as one of the original mermaids of ‘H2O’ or even one of the vampires in ‘The Vampire Diaries’ or the spin-off ‘The Originals’. Nevertheless, both are great actresses and play the part extremely well in this film. Moore plays Lisa, the more sensible one of the sisters, she’s just been left by a long-time boyfriend who said she was too boring, but from the film we know she’s definitely not. Holt plays the more daring sister, Kate, the brave one, the one to do anything for a bit of fun, however this is apparent to be quite wreckless. The sisters are completely different, yet both are great and become characters to love in the film. 

So what actually happens if you don’t know? While on vacation in Mexico, the sisters meet two men on a night out, soon they are persuaded to venture out the next day to the deep blue sea and enter a cage and watch the great white sharks around them. The boys do it first, successfully as they have so many times before, but when the girls are in the cage something goes wrong. From the beginning you know everything seems a bit shady, things seem suspicious, maybe I’m more like Lisa, paranoid it’s something too unsafe in the first place, whereas Kate was eager to go, a new adventure to discover. Things that go wrong are predominantly no ones fault, but the cage sinks, breaking the rope that was going to take the girls back up, but nope, they head down, down, down, 47 meters down if you couldn’t guess. There’s a multitude of problems that creates tension in this film, not just the sharks, which is horrible because you don’t know where they are, but also they’re oxygen levels are going low, they can’t swim to the top without stopping at five minute intervals or nitrogen will hit the brain, and of course they are unprotected in water, in the freezing cold water – the more they panic the less air they will get. Oh and on top of all that, they are just out of reach of the signal to talk to the top of the water to the people in the boat. So a lot of things are adding up for these two young women 47 meters deep in the ocean. So to be honest, there’s a lot of things that add to the tension, just in the plot alone.

’47 Meters Down’ was definitely thrilling, a great horror. There were moments I had to look away, the suspense of not knowing where the shark was was petrifying. Yeah, maybe the shark was around as much as realistic effects go in the film, but to be honest, that wasn’t on my mind in the film, there was always the possibility of one showing up. So yeah, there weren’t actually as many attacks of the shark than I would have thought, but the suspense of it being out there was enough to create the horror in the film. The inevitable fact that they would have to get out the cage was annoyingly terrifying, survival instincts kicking in and that they would have to try save themselves with oxygen low. Especially with the many other issues they had underwater as well. It is a film you are watching in real time, the time that went in the film was the time you were watching it for. This added to the tension even more and made it feel even more real. Very clever. I would definitely recommend this film, its cleverly thrilling and definitely a good shark horror film.

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

‘Deep Blue Sea’. A simple plot? Doctors made sharks clever and now they are clever enough to break out of their enclosures and eat the people that kept them in there for so long. Basically that’s the plot. A good plot? I actually think it’s quite an intriguing one; yeah a character was clearly very stupid and basically set a human-eating monster on them all, but it’s not a bad plot for a horror film. Sharks are scary, and these particular three are on a mission, a mission to kill every single person who played a part in capturing them.

So “welcome to Aquatica”, a floating area in the middle of the sea, where a group of people work experimenting on sharks in order to find the cure for Alzheimer’s. But they’re testing on sharks… Which I have to admit is a bit of animal cruelty. But instead of hurting the sharks, they are unintentionally making them smarter by extending their brains. So in the middle of the sea, when one thing goes wrong, everything does, and a group of eight people are trapped, unable to go into the water due to the sharks, however they’re sinking. So pretty tragic and very dramatic. To say the least, this group of eight is quickly minimalised and continues to throughout the film.

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The characters in this film are not actually developed sophisticatedly for the audience. I feel this lets down the film a bit, as it definitely takes away from the horror of the film. If the audience isn’t attached to the characters they are not emotionally devoted to what happens to them, so we don’t feel tension towards the character’s lives. The film more just gives the essence that they’re all going to die anyway and the sharks are going to win… However, saying this, there has to be at least two characters that the audience do feel a bit more attached to, again I wouldn’t say that much, but it’s something. These characters are Carter (Thomas Jane) and Preacher (LL Cool J), and if I’m stretching it, maybe Dr Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows). Carter seems to be the main protagonist of the film, there is definitely more focus on him and his heroic and sacrificial decisions. Preacher, probably my favourite character, was cleverly done for the audience to appreciate. This is due to the fact that he was on his own instead of in the group when everything starts going downhill; the fact that he was on his own makes him vulnerable and the audience feels more sympathetic towards him. Susan was an interesting character, even though the basis of why the sharks were clever was her fault, she had depth to her character for her obsession and desperation to want to get the cure for Alzheimer’s, but throughout this it puts everyone else in danger.

Please remember that this is a film of 1999 and you can definitely tell. The deaths are very fake to say the least. Although, one thing I couldn’t get my head around was the sharks. Ok, so there were many times the sharks were 100% fake and couldn’t look more so, but then at slower parts of the movie (which to be honest there weren’t many anyway), the sharks looked quite real, so it was a good blend for the film as it was made in 1999. There were many uses of underwater shots from the vision of the sharks. I know this is effective in many films, for example, the new film ‘The Shallows’ or even the classic ‘Jaws’; but I feel it wasn’t as successful in this film as it was in the others. I can’t exactly pinpoint why this was; the film just wasn’t able to build the tension these two others film did. This ultimately meant that it just wasn’t that scary for the audience. It was more just of a waiting game of who was the next meal for the sharks.

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Would I recommend this film? I’m not sure. To say the least there are some better shark films out there. But hey, it wasn’t awful. It does the action well, and the film is extremely dramatic. For example, the audience is thrown straight into the film with a shark right away, smashing through a boat… There’s no hiding what the film is about and there are many theatrical moments. Also, the plot is very different to many I’ve seen before. So if you enjoy the shark films, then I would recommend. If not, perhaps give this film a miss.

The Shallows (2016)

Well to start off, this is a film definitely worth watching. If you like shark films then you will definitely appreciate this one. Even though, I’m not a shark fan, like seriously, they scare the living daylights out of me… I still appreciated this movie. It was cleverly created to keep the audience in constant tension. And because of this it was full of suspense and delivered a watchable, yet not want to watch, shark horror film.

Everyone must have seen the trailer. I don’t know if it was just my friends circling it around on FaceBook, or whether it be that I follow Blake Lively on Instagram; but nevertheless I saw the trailer highly advertised. There is no hiding the fact that this film is one based around one girl and her attempted plan and escape from a shark. However, because everyone knows this is what is going to happen there isn’t an element of surprise when we finally notice the shark in the waters. Although what the film does really well is that we don’t actually know when it’s going to appear. The start of the film throws the audience into suspense of a shark we know is coming. But when? Now? Not yet. What about now? Nope. Tension builds up before we even see the shark. Then it comes. And it comes hungry. Hungry for fresh meat, most significantly, fresh meat of a human. The best thing, the tension doesn’t leave here either. The shark goes. Swimming in depths we can’t see. But he comes back. Making the audience feel uncomfortable to when the shark is next appearing and whether the poor trapped girl will make it out alive.

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There are a few clever ways this tension is built up in this film. Firstly, there are many under water shots. This is similar to ‘Jaws’, where it seems that the camera is coming from the shark’s perspective and is hunting its prey. Alike to ‘Jaws’ again, they trick the audience purposely to think this, that the shark is coming, when it isn’t, or is it? Secondly, there are many moments that are slowed down, the audience watch them in slow motion. This focusses the audience on certain aspects of the film, but also making us think something is about to happen. This is blended in with tense fast music, another aspect to create this tension for the audience. It also helped that the shark looked quite realistic. Compared to ‘Jaws’ again, the shark was good for 1975; but ‘The Shallows’ came out in 2016, this year, so thankfully the shark looks realistic and scarier for the audience. These aspects all truly add to the atmosphere of the film and make it that much more worth watching. I’ve never been so tense for a whole hour and a half before… The film created so much tension that the audience couldn’t feel much other than stress or surprise. Obviously, this was done on purpose so it makes it a brilliant horror.

Another thing I really liked about this movie is that it was so brilliantly played by Blake Lively as Nancy. We learn a lot about the main protagonist herself, this makes the film so much more realistic for the audience, we can connect to this loveable character. Nancy is a girl who recently dropped out of med school and is travelling in order to get some alone time, after a recent tragedy in her life. This really creates depth into her character and makes her a character the audience wants to route for.

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This film was made this year, like I’ve already stated; and what I liked is that this was also when the film was set. The way this is shown is through the technology of the film, which I really liked, to make it look so modern. It is cleverly done, with the FaceTime on the screen for the audience to see, going into the details of jumping, because no one ever has good quality. Also the texts popping up or her scrolling through pictures which are telling the audience things about her past. So not only are these things modern for today’s audience, but are telling the audience even more about the protagonist without actually saying it, but hinting at things.

This film does seem very realistic, and I liked this, it made it scarier. There are some parts of look away gruesome, or screaming at the screen for Nancy to get out of the water, or to ask her what the hell she thinks she’s doing! There’s gasps and turned away heads. It really is a film to grip an audience to see how she’s going to get out of this one.

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So overall, it is a film I would recommend. If you’re in for a thrilling tense film, then this one should be at the top of the list. Plus, Blake Lively is great in it, if anyone says she can only play the American Upper Class girl from ‘Gossip Girl’ they are mistaken in the character she plays in ‘The Shallows’.

Jaws (1975)

On a small island, Amity Island, known as “a summer town” a shark comes to visit. Not in a good way, even though I don’t know what a good way for a shark to visit somewhere is. Not that it packs its bags and sunbathes on the beach and surfs on the waves… Basically, it’s always going to be a bad way. And this film definitely highlights the bad way in a death of a young girl straight at the beginning, as she is torn to pieces in the ocean when just wanting a night swim. So straight away you are brought in with the shark and understand that it wants food and it has found its new hunting ground, or water.

The first thing to remember is that if you haven’t seen this film, it was made in 1975. So don’t be expecting to have the special effects that there are now, because then they just weren’t as good. For example, the shark does look pretty fake. However, the clever way around this is that you don’t see much of the shark in the first hour of the film, so tension builds up and it still manages to be slightly scary due to the camera angles from under the water and the fact that you’re not actually seeing the predator. I have to say, for a 1975 film and having a shark as the main aspect, it’s done very well. But it’s Steven Spielberg, of course it is. I found that even though it is quite an old film, it was still tense and slightly scary watching it recently. Well I definitely found some parts quite scary, but then again, I hate sharks to begin with, no one needs to persuade me that they’re frightening. Have you seen at least a picture of one? Just no. Anyway, if you were watching this film in 1975, I would probably say that this film was quite scary and seemed quite real compared to other films that came out around that time. It has to have been anyway, as it was so successful and people still watch it nowadays as a classic. You must have at least heard of it!

Jaws - shark and boat

Another way this film is good is the use of music. Everyone must know the classic duuun nu, duun nu, tune of a shark. And this is used in this film. This tells the audience when the shark is about and hungry. Additionally, there are moments of silence, where tension builds up, unknown where the shark is, but the silence senses something is going to happen. It’s not a film of constant music, there is the right amount in the correct places. Very cleverly done. Also as mentioned before, the camera angles are really key to this film. There are a lot of underwater shots that seem from the shark’s perspective. As you are seeing things from the predator’s point of view, it builds up stress and tension for the audience to want the people at risk to escape safely. But of course they can’t hear you.

So the plot of this film? Once the shark has attacked and killed two people, things start to take more serious action. This being Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) of Amity Police Department, and he tries as much as he can, even though he is massively restricted by the town’s Mayor, Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), who wants to keep the tourist money coming in from the beaches and the sea, which if it gets out that a shark is in it, he would clearly lose money; this restriction is perfectly shown after the death of the first victim hence why more action isn’t taken then. The people of this town clearly underestimate the danger of the shark which therefore leads to more deaths. An ocean expert arrives on the Island to help with the shark problem, this being Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss); however he says things people don’t exactly want to hear, the only person listening is Brody. So they work together to try and dissolve the problem they face, one like they’ve never before. Once things start to get more out of hand and the seriousness becomes more real, the last hour of the film is dominated by the hunting of the shark. The only person who seems serious enough to capture it is a slight crazy man who loves to sing, Quint (Robert Shaw). This last hour is more thrilling than scary horror as the shark is finally on show. It is more action-like.

Jaws - Hooper, Cheif and Quint

Spielberg plays with mood and instinct in this film. The audience is constantly in the know of everything that the characters on screen do. There aren’t hidden meanings behind things or secrets that will be revealed, everything is out in the open when it’s discovered by the characters. However, Spielberg creates a fear for the characters as he plays on victims that would be more emotionally effective towards an audience, for example, children. This adds to the horror in an urgent and tense way. Although, this is definitely not a film of constant fear, there are some tense scenes and some jumpy ones, but overall a lot of the film is based on land away from the shark. This just develops a background and realisation of the potential of the shark from the people of the town. But also creates an annoyance for the audience, due to the people not understanding the risks at the beginning of the film, but instead it drags out for an hour as they are naïve to think the shark is nothing and the tourist money is more important, whereas Spielberg purposely makes the audience know differently and more truthfully.

Overall, for a 1975 film it definitely wasn’t a bad one. It is no way near as scary as some horrors that are out now, but it is clever to still affect an audience in today’s world. It is quite a long film, two hours, but as I said before, it’s like the first half is completely separate from the second as it becomes less scary and more action. So why not give it a go? I hate sharks and I still watched it.